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What do teams really need?

-Tools for productive meetings
-Skills to solve problems creatively
-Willingness to have productive conflict and the skills to do so
-The maturity to avoid unproductive conflict

So, how might that be accomplished?

I’ve been building teams in my own organizations and as a profession now since 1979. It’s been a crazy ride from fad to fad. Colleagues and I, over the years have worked through a huge number of team building theory trends and in every imaginable organization type.

We did the conflict resolution, T-group and team esteem stuff, then got certified by Project Adventure to do Ropes Course programs. We led wilderness experiences and rafting trips and blind trust walks. We did “New Games” and simulations. We had people create and sign group behavior contracts and became certified coaches to use a coaching approach. We built programs from Lencioni’s thinking about the 5 dysfunctions of teams, Peck’s writing about “The Road Less Traveled” and Covey’s wisdom about “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” We followed Kurt Hahn’s mentorship about incremental challenge mastery and the experiential learning cycle.

All of it helped a little, each approach having unique benefits, but it all taught us more about what does not work rather than what always does.

Is it hopeless?

Have I spent the better part of 40 years figuring out that humans are self-centered jerks and effective teams are just luck-of-the-draw? Jokingly, I want to write that:

“Yes I have, my life has no meaning and I quit. I’m going into  politics, because I am now comfortable with ineffectiveness.”

But that’s not true, and there are things that do work.

The competencies for effective collaboration fall into two categories:  emotional Intelligence and creative problem solving. So we’ve built our own organizations, and the programs we offer others via our consulting firm to impact both at the same time. You should too.

This unsolicited comment came in last week and is a common outcome of programs designed as I’ll describe:

“I was one of the attendees from the Pharos conference last month. I brought a great deal of technical and other printing related information back with me from the conference. It’s the most valuable conference I attend. However, everyday I seem to be using the information that we learned and practiced – POINt, gator brain, strategic thinking. At work, I use what you taught us – and I tell my wife and kids about it. My wife wishes that she was in New Orleans to attend the training, too. You had a lasting impact on me, and I just wanted to say thank you!” Gene Mayro, Director, Information Technology, Computer Lab Operations at Temple University

The trick, or – if we want to stay on trend – The Hack:
1. Teach Creative Problem Solving, and a wide selection of divergent & convergent tools – in a group context…

2. While working on real business issues.

3. Show, through failure, the common unproductive patterns we fall into with each other, and then…

4. Practice tools and thinking methods that are effective in overcoming those unproductive patterns across our entire life, not just at work.

Boom. It works.  We call it “Innovation for Results.” Notice the lack of the word TEAM. But teams appear, nonetheless. As does new value creation. (Yes, trainer types out there, we’re talking validated Level 5 ROI and a very common impact on both Level 6 & 7!) A Level 5 study at Mercedes-Benz showed 750% ROI 90 days post training.

An attention-getting provocation I often drop into my keynotes is that:

The concept of “Team” is perhaps one of the most destructive metaphors ever to be foisted upon business. If each of us – as an individual –  focuses on being an emotionally intelligent creative problem solver, then, when a critical % of us  come together as a group, we’ll get great stuff done. (We think that critical percent is between 65% on the low side and 80% on the high of the total group). We’ll leave it to the anthropologists to determine if we are a high function team. We’re too busy getting great stuff done to spend time backslapping ourselves. We’re just enjoying making progress with the friends we work with.

You can read more about Creative Problem Solving here. Learn about “Gator Brain” here. Explore some of the tools here.

There is a conference that focuses on all of this each year called CPSI – pronounced “SipSee” – the Creative Problem Solving Institute, that you can attend with an entire “team,” or family, as well as alone.

And of course, you can make us part of your team so we can leave behind some of the wisdom we’ve acquired over the last 35 years in the form of increased productivity for creating new value. “Innovation For Results” is described here.

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